NESHANNOCK TWP — The pitch count rule counted out Rocky Grove ace right-hander Travis Perry.
That rule nearly aced out the Orioles, who needed a diving catch from right fielder Tyler Clayton to preserve their 2-1 victory over Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in the PIAA Class 2A baseball semifinals Monday at Neshannock High School.
“That kid saved their season,” CWNC coach John Haggerty said of Clayton.
The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Perry was cruising along on a three-hit shutout. Rocky Grove (16-3) scored twice in the fifth and Perry was making those runs stand up.
He struck out the first two hitters in the bottom of the seventh — giving him 12 strikeouts for the day — but had to leave the mound at that point because of the state’s pitch count rule. No pitcher can begin pitching to another batter once he reaches 100 pitches.
Perry began the seventh with 96 pitches. He fanned Joe Jordano on three pitches, then reached 103 pitches with his whiff of Robby Randolph.
“I wasn’t going to take any chances,” Rocky Grove coach Bill Wilson said. “I wasn’t about to let a State College thing happen to us.
“Once Travis hit 90 pitches, I was checking his count as each batter came up.”
State College had to forfeit a playoff game to McDowell earlier this postseason because of a pitch count error.
Rocky Grove nearly lost another way.
Nate Saar hit reliever Tyler Knupp’s first pitch deep to left-center for a double. No. 9 batter James Williams was hit by a pitch.
When Danny Lynch delivered his third hit of the game — a run-scoring single to left — Wilson called on Scott Perry to face Luc Madonna with the tying and winning runs on base.
“It was cool that my little brother came in and got the final out,” Travis Perry said.
Not without some adventure.
Madonna hit a slicing liner down the right field line. Clayton fully extended to catch the ball just above the grass to end the game.
“If he doesn’t catch that ball, we win the game,” Haggerty said. “It would have bounced away from him and Danny was already well around second base.”
Lynch would have been the winning run.
“Hey, that kid (Travis Perry) pitched a great game against us,” Haggerty said. “With that frame and his velocity, he’s got a chance to really be something.
“If we could have gotten him out of there a little earlier, I think we would have won.”
Ryan Feczko tossed a complete game for CWNC (17-4). He struck out seven and did not walk a batter, throwing 101 pitches.
Three of Rocky Grove’s six hits occurred in the fifth. Clayton doubled down the left field line to begin the frame. No. 9 hitter Koby Winslow tried bunting him to third and bunted for a hit instead. With one out, Knupp produced a run-scoring single. Travis Perry followed with a sacrifice fly.
The Trojans missed chances to score in the third. Lynch walked with one out and Madonna singled to right. When the ball eluded Clayton, Lynch tried to score and and was thrown out at the plate.
Madonna went to third on the throw to the plate. He could have scored on a wild pitch, but Joe Alampi fouled the pitch back after it hit the ground. Alampi struck out to end the inning.
“Just one of those things,” Haggerty said. “I sent Danny home on that play and, looking back, I wish I had held him up. That was on me.
“This was a close, tight game that could have gone either way. At this point in the playoffs, this is what these games are supposed to look like.”
District 10 champion Rocky Grove rode the right arm of Perry, who entered the game with a 0.67 earned run average and 79 strikeouts in 42 innings. He will pitch at Youngstown State University next year.
“He was dominant today,” Wilson said. “The pitch count got him and we were able to hang on.”
Perry allowed two runners in the first and third innings, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters he faced.
“Once I got a feel for my curve ball, it went pretty smooth,” the pitcher said.
So did the Trojans’ season, albeit in a losing cause Monday.
“This is the first senior class that went through all four years at the school in Cranberry,” Haggerty said. “These kids have a lot to be proud of.”
Rocky Grove 000 020 0 — 2 6 1
CW North Cath. 000 000 1 — 1 5 1
W: Travis Perry 6.2 IP (12K, 3BB). L: Ryan Feczko 7 IP (7K, 0BB).
Rocky Grove (16-3):Tyler Knupp 2-1B RBI, Travis Perry 1B RBI, Conner Curran 1B, Tyler Clayton 2B, Koby Winslow 1B
CW North Catholic (17-4): Danny Lynch 3-1B RBI, Luc Madonna 1B, Nate Saar 2B